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What is a Calorie and Why Should You Care?

March 24th, 2013
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Calorie is a household word, it’s heard around the office, at the gym, but if I ask the question, “exactly what does a calorie do” people have a hard time answering. In fact, most answer, “the thing in food that makes me fat.” Seems to me calories have gotten a bad reputation; are considered to be the enemy. Or it may be like many things in life…too much of a good thing can be bad. So here’s the question. How much do you really know about calories? (Yes, go ahead, take the quiz) Because, actually, calories can be your friend.

Funny…with all the talk about calories, few people truly understand what a calorie is and why it is so important to their bodies. Calories aren’t bad for you. Your body needs calories for energy. But eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.

By definition a calorie is a unit of measurement; the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius. When you read that a food contains 100 calories, it’s a way of describing how much energy your body could get from eating or drinking that food.

Calories are energy that fuel our bodies; much like gasoline fuels our cars. Without sufficient calories our heart would not beat, our lungs would not function, and our brain would not work. Note: I am certainly not claiming that if you eat more calories you brain will work better.

On average, most adults need at least 1000 to 1400 calories to have enough energy to fuel their key organs. This minimum number of calories is called your resting metabolic rate (RMR) and it varies quite a bit depending on age, sex, weight, and muscle mass. In order to have enough energy to live your day and be active you need more energy than what’s required from your resting metabolic rate (RMR). About 400 to 600 additional calories per day is recommended. This is the energy needed to move versus just lying or sitting still all day.

It’s really quite simple math to understand why you gain or lose weight. If you exceed the number of calories your body requires each day you will eventually gain weight. For example, if your body needs 2000 calories a day to maintain its current weight and every day you consume 2500, in one week you would gain 1 lb. And by the way, one day of overindulging does not cause instant weight gain.

To lose weight you need to burn more calories than you consume. Example: If you eat 2000 calories a day, and are maintaining your weight, you would need to burn 250 calories (30 minutes high impact aerobics for a 150 lb. person) per day to lose a 1/2 lb. in one week. If, in addition, you decreased your caloric intake by 250 calories a day, you could then lose 1 lb. per week. But one note of caution…you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Research backs up the The Simple Secret Of Weight Loss: Eat Less, Move More

Yes, you should care. My advice: Know the content and calories of what you’re eating. Get up and get moving. Make sure your physical activity is enjoyable and you will stick with it!

Looking for a way to get active? Check out the many adult dance & fitness classes offered at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School.

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Bollywood Unraveled

March 14th, 2013
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I recently asked Bollywood Dance instructor Prakash Mohandas to write about Bollywood. Hope you enjoy what he has to say…

 

I am going to start this blog with the same question I ask in my classes, what do you know about Bollywood Dance?

The most common answers include Slumdog Millionaire, So You Think You Can Dance and a gesture of a light bulb being turned with one hand while squashing a bug with one foot.

My response to their comments, in this order, is always, “Wrong,”  “Well, kinda” and “Are you serious?”

While the majority of people aren’t really sure how to define Bollywood, occasionally I come across the true Bollywood fan. This person names all the movies he or she has seen, to the amazement of the rest of the class.

At this point an explanation is required as to why we’re talking about movies in a dance class. Bollywood is the name given to the Hindi film industry in India which primarily operates out of a city called Bombay (now Mumbai). So with Bombay being the self-proclaimed Hollywood of India, the term Bollywood was coined! Isn’t it ingenious?

So what exactly is Bollywood Dance and where did it come from?

Bollywood dance is, in essence, Indian film dance centered around music from Hindi movies. Bollywood dance is defined more by the music than by the dance style itself.

Bollywood dance is a genre that draws inspiration from various dance styles such as Bhangra, Folk dance, Hip Hop, Jazz, Contemporary and more. The choreography of a Bollywood song and the steps that go into it are governed by the music it’s set to and how these dance styles can effectively be used to communicate the music. The advantage of this diverse dance form is that it gives the freedom for the choreography of Bollywood song to range from slow to upbeat and classical to contemporary. This is what makes it fun! In fact, there is one thing that is common to any kind of Bollywood number—energy!

So now that you really know what Bollywood dance is all about come check out the Bollywood choreography and Bollywood fitness classes on Monday and Thursdays.

Do you hear Bollywood calling?

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Like it or not, we’re getting older…fact!

February 23rd, 2013
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Did you know we lose 50% of our muscle from ages 50-90? FACT.

Did you know that our balance begins to decline in our mid-forties? FACT.

Did you know that approximately one in three older adults falls each year? FACT.

Did you know that the annual cost for fall-related injuries is expected to reach $44 billion by the year 2020? We’ll know in 202 if that’s a FACT.

Did you know that a recent study showed that muscle strengthening and balance retraining can reduce falls and injuries by up to 50%? FACT.

I just finished teaching another 6-week Better Balance & Movement Workshop and the class is always one of the highlights of my week. Not only do I meet the most interesting people of all ages (30 to 88), I know that because I am teaching the class there will be at least 45 minutes in each week that I am intentional about working on my own balance exercises. Because I do know the facts, I want to do all I can to not become a statistic. Whatever I can do now, and continue to do for the rest of my life to maintain good balance and prevent potential falls, I want to do. And the human balance system is quite fascinating. It really is quite simple to keep the brain and muscles connected. We just have to be intentional about it.

Let’s face it. We’re all getting older. Aging begins when we’re born. There’s not some ‘top of the hill’ we reach and then we’re ‘over’. No! Whatever our age, we are getting older. So let’s make the most of it, plan for it, and celebrate it!

I want to be as active as I can for as long as I can, and I am surrounded by people every day who embrace the same desire and commitment to lifelong health and wellbeing. In fact, I just discovered that we have people representing every decade of life this side of 100 taking classes at Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School. Wow! Age 3 to 93! People finding ways to get active and keep moving.

But my favorite is the class I teach; Better Balance & Movement. Why? Because each week I spend 45 minutes with adults of all ages and physical ability levels who desire to stay active as long as possible. They want to maintain a level of physical fitness throughout life. They hope to maintain or improve their balance. And so we gather each week and ask the question, “Can you stand on one leg for 15 seconds with your eyes closed without holding on?” No! FACT.

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Grab a Workout Buddy

February 9th, 2013
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Unless you are a highly motivated self-starter and aren’t prone to giving up when it comes to working out, your chances of sticking to a long-term fitness plan without a friend are significantly lower than they are with a friend. So grab your friend and buddy up for fitness!

With a friend, the time goes by faster, you won’t be as tempted to cancel a workout or cheat, and you have someone to celebrate with when it comes to your progress and successes!

I recently read a great article on one of my favorite fitness websites called Get Motivated: The Workout You Won’t Cancel. It makes sense! The buddy system has proven itself in just about all areas of life.

At the Butler Community School one of the things I love is the sense of community. If people don’t come to take a class or workout with a friend when they first come to the BCS, it’s not long before there is a sense of camaraderie. Everyone’s in it together. I see it in drop-in classes, during the workshops, and in the Pilates Center. It happens! It’s accountability and encouragement at its best.

Here’s my challenge. Bring a friend, strike up a new friendship with someone in a class, or get a group together. Prove me right! i’m convinced you’ll stick with it! Try working out with people you enjoy being with, in a class that you enjoy.  Meet new people! Give it enough time to test it. If it helps, if you experience the benefits of the buddy system, I want to hear your story! If it does nothing for you let me know that too…but I will want to know why!

So grab your workout buddy and get started today!

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Make Your World a Playground

February 3rd, 2013
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I am not Jillian Michaels. Jillian Michaels is one of the most recognizable faces in fitness today, and has inspired thousands and thousands of people to change their habits and adopt healthier, happier, and fitter lifestyles.

While I am not Jillian Michaels, am not recognized by millions, and don’t quite have her body, I do share a similar passion to see people change their habits and adopt healthier, happier, and fitter lifestyles. That’s why I love my job!

 

Today I was thinking about those three words; health, happy, fit. Which is more important? What should we strive for first in order to have it all? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? If I am healthy I am going to be a lot happier than if I’m not healthy. But does being healthy automatically create happiness? And if I’m healthy does that make me fit? No. If I am fit does that make me healthy? Not necessarily. If I’m happy can I conclude that I must also be healthy and fit? Of course not! Yes, there are facts I know. Exercise is good for me physically. Exercise is good for my stress level. Exercise is good for my brain. But will I exercise if I the exercise is not enjoyed; does not make me happy?

 

I can toss this around in my head for a long time and never come up with a good answer. There is always another question, another thought. And to take this thought to another level, don’t forget that health can be physical, mental, emotional, and so on. Fitness can also apply to many areas. So the conclusion is that we cannot separate health, happiness, and fitness. There must always be a sort of pact between the three. And for me and you, we should strive to find ways for these words to intersect in our lives.

Children have it figured out. Play! They want to go out and play. When children play, they are manifesting intrinsic motivation in its purest form. They are happy in play. And as they play they are active. If they stay active in play they tend to be healthier and fit, both in mind and body.

This week I leave you with this one thought: “Do you, and how can you get to the playground?”

 

If you are not sure where your playground is; if you’re not sure how to begin looking for something that brings both play and movement into your life, where the focus is on the enjoyment of your movement and not just the the exercise part, email me and let’s talk! There may be something fun for you at the Butler Community School!

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The Hidden Top Secret Workout for Kids!

January 27th, 2013
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Shhh…only read if you won’t tell your kids…

I’m on a mission to get kids moving, active and staying as fit as possible throughout life. I know I am not single handedly going to accomplish this goal. I know there are initiatives all over the country honing in on this same effort.  I also know that childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years, and that children and adolescents who are overweight and inactive are likely to be overweight and inactive as adults.

And one more thing I know; when people of any age find something fun to get them moving, they stay moving. I’ve blogged about that before, but it’s true for kids as well. A recent study from University of Leeds in England shows that for inactive teenagers, emphasizing the emotional, feel-good benefits of exercise is a more effective way to encourage exercise than highlighting traditional health benefits. We all know the health benefits of exercise and that’s not always enough motivation for us or our children.

And that brings me to dance. Kids love it! Whether it’s jazz, tap, Bollywood, or hip hop, kids hear the music and their bodies start to move. This week I walked by the Disney Kids workshop and had to smile at the room full of girls dancing to their Disney favorites. I watched children and their parents moving to a Bollywood beat in Kids Dance Around the World. Three things in common; everyone was moving to great music, everyone was smiling and having fun, and everyone was getting a 45-60 minute workout without even knowing it.

Muscles moving, heart rate up; dance is an excellent all-round way to get a workout, get fit and remain healthy. Dance builds stamina, flexibility, strength and co-ordination. It helps children develop good posture. Dance uses both sides of the brain: one half for technique and control and the other for creativity and artistry. It increases brain productivity and attention span.

As if we need more reasons to get kids dancing; I see the fun they are having and know that the feel-good factor and fun will create a positive attitude towards staying active. Some day I hope I can say, “mission accomplished”.

So there you have it; dance is good for you and your kids. But help me keep it a secret! If your children think it’s good for them…well, do they eat their vegetables?

 

Looking for opportunities for you and your children to get active and have fun through dance? We have an answer for that! Come dance!

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The Best Exercise In The World…Guaranteed!

December 29th, 2012
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Got your attention, didn’t I? In case you are scrolling down to find the answer…wait! Read carefully to discover what is considered to be the best exercise in the world! Everyone is telling you to get moving, get active, get fit! There are local and national initiatives to fight the obesity trends. At Ballet Austin one of our core values is, “We dance…to encourage lifelong health and well-being.”  The Butler Community School  (BCS) desires people to adopt healthy lifestyles through dance and regular physical activity. We even have a FREE event planned at Ballet Austin on January 13 wrapped around the fitness craze! But what does all of this mean for you and me?

Here’s the deal…I know the human body was designed for activity, and by exercising regularly I will look and feel better. I also know it is something I have to do for the rest of my life…be active to stay active. My training and experience in the field of recreation and aging remind me that what I don’t use, I lose. Muscular endurance, cardio-respiratory strength, flexibility, balance, and overall health, all increase if I move now, but I stay strong because I stay active. I know all that!  But if the average lifespan of a female is 80 years, that’s a long time to stick with something just to stick with something. It takes a convincing exercise program for me to keep doing it for 80 years! What will it take for you? Forget the 80…what will it take for you to be active this year? What is the best exercise in the world for you? The answer…don’t be mad at me…because I don’t have your answer! It’s your choice. Be active your way! Whatever works for you! The philosophy is that IF you find an activity that keeps you moving, that you enjoy, you will maintain a higher level of involvement for a longer period of time.

So what is the best exercise in the world for you? Whatever you enjoy and will keep doing! Walking the dog, playing golf, raking leaves, running the trail, riding a bike, Pilates, even dancing! It’s anything that will get you moving and keep you moving! Choose an activity that’s easy to fit into your life. If it’s easy you’ll do it. If it’s fun, social, refreshing…you will do it! Do you like people? Find people. Like the outdoors? Go outside! Are you a morning person? Get out of bed and get active! Wherever you are in your fitness journey…it is never too late to start, change, and for sure keep going. There is not an age you reach when you are done!

What’s the best exercise for you? Your way…guaranteed!

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Hello Glutes, Welcome to Today!

December 20th, 2012
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I am loving the blogs written by Schools Program Coordinator Jodi Schwaben. Here’s her latest in the Pilates journey…

 

Hello glutes, welcome to today! That’s what Ballet Austin Pilates Instructor Alex Miller said before announcing another set of leg lifts, but for me it was more like Hello glutes, quads, hamstrings and all of you other leg muscles I didn’t realize existed until just now.

Yesterday was my final Pilates session for this series of blog posts, and I must admit I’m feeling pretty good (aside from the sore thighs and abs). I’ve been doing Pilates once a week for three weeks now, and I’m noticing a difference in my stamina, posture, flexibility and overall body awareness.

Here are my suggestions for other beginners:

Take a private lesson. Before you attend a group session, it would be wise to first take a private lesson with one of Ballet Austin’s instructors. This is a perfect opportunity to familiarize yourself with the reformer and become accustom to the adjustments and movements that occur in every class.

Be prepared for corrections. The Pilates instructors want you to get a good workout and they also want to avoid injury, so they will correct your position if it is wrong. This is not to frustrate you or make you feel uncomfortable. To reiterate my first suggestion, a private session will get a lot of these corrections out of the way in a more comfortable setting.

Dress appropriately. At some point in your session, you will be lying down on the apparatus with your legs extended, so loose shorts are not suggested. Fitted clothing are best for a couple of reasons, first, you don’t want to worry about anything showing, second, your instructor will be able to see your body alignment more clearly. For women, I suggest a fitted t-shirt or tank top with leggings, bicycle shorts or yoga pants. For men, I would suggest a t-shirt with bicycle shorts, running pants or gym shorts with bicycle shorts underneath. You will be barefoot.

Communicate with your instructor. Before or at the beginning of your session, let your instructor know if you have any injuries or limitations, and he or she will make the proper adjustments for you. While in session, if anything hurts or feels wrong, tell your instructor immediately.

During yesterday’s appointment I was able to do some of the Pilates moves that I couldn’t complete only two weeks ago. I think it may be due to more than just my improved stamina; I think the encouragement from my instructors helps a lot. Alex and Vlada are not shy to shout out a personalized “great job” or “beautiful” as you go through the motions, and the small class size allows the instructors to give individualized attention to each student. I will definitely be back.

-Jodi

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I Take Pilates with Robots

December 14th, 2012
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…Or maybe Energizer Bunnies. My class is full of women and men of all ages and body types and they do.not.stop. I asked one woman how she was able to keep up without her abs bursting into flames, and she explained that she’d been taking Pilates here at Ballet Austin for a while. As the class continued, I realized I too felt more confident in my movements and the transitions became easy (well, easier), which got me thinking about my normal excuses and how Pilates seems to be the exception to my many rules.

No Energy
I’m having one of those just on my first cup of coffee, don’t talk to me type of day. I’m not sure if it’s the gloomy weather or all the calories I burned Christmas shopping at the Domain this weekend, but I just didn’t want to get out of bed. So of course, the last thing I wanted to do was shimmy into a pair of yoga pants and hit the Pilates studio. Honestly, my desires were to stay in my baggy sweatpants and hit the couch for an all-day marathon of Friends reruns. However, after an hour of Pilates, I have a burst of energy, especially on the days when we do Pilates Cardio. I can also tell a difference in my metabolism throughout the day.

Joint Issues
I was born with dislocated hips, so I’ve always had lower back and hip pain. This is my #1 excuse. High-impact classes tend to hurt my hip flexors and mat classes are uncomfortable for my lower back. However, as today’s Pilates Instructor Alex explained, if it hurts or just doesn’t feel right, let your instructor know and modifications can be made. I’ve learned in my appointments that if I am restricted from a move, it doesn’t mean I can’t still target that specific muscle group. The Certified Pilates Instructors are able to make the proper adjustments or teach a completely different move to still get the same results without the pain – well, not completely pain-free (remember the abs bursting into flames comment?)

I Cheat
I’m not trying to brag, but I’m an awesome cheater. Years of evil gym teachers made me a fantastic exercise cheater.  I can cheat, cheat, cheat without the instructor ever knowing; I can do the same move as you and feel nothing just by turning my arm a little bit. One problem, if the instructor standing over you can’t tell you’re cheating, the reformer sure can. I cannot cheat on the Pilates Reformer. If you don’t do the movement, it won’t move. It’s that simple. It’s impossible to leave a Pilates Apparatus class feeling like you didn’t get a great workout. The machine adds just enough resistance and forces you to do it right.

That sums up appointment # two in this four part series, and so far I’m sticking to my original statement: Pilates may be the workout for the girl who doesn’t work out.

Jodi

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Could this be the exercise class for the girl who doesn’t exercise?

December 7th, 2012
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I am turning over the BEACTIVE! blog to Schools Program Coordinator Jodi Schwaben for a few weeks. Enjoy!

I was never the most coordinated person. Alright, I’ll just say it – I was a nerd. In high school, I chose to exercise my mind over exercising my body. Now, closing in on the big 3-0, I’m noticing my metabolism slowing and my body starting to slouch. To combat this I’ve increased my activity level, which includes sticking in a pair of headphones and walking on a treadmill until I’m bored. I prefer individual activities, ones where I can do things at my own pace and without comparing myself to the athletes around me.

So when my director asked me to take a Ballet Austin Group Pilates class on the reformer, I wasn’t exactly chomping at the bit. Luckily, I had a week to mentally prepare for the impending hour of torture.

At my appointment time, I checked out my classmates – one, a Ballet Austin employee who could basically be a Prima Ballerina as fit as she is – I instantly felt nervous and out of place. Everyone knew what to do; they went right to work stretching on the Pilates apparatus. I felt foolish, fumbling with my equipment, but no one seemed to notice; all of the students stared ahead, focusing on their own movements. What a relief!

The class did not stop after that, shifting between core, to legs, to arms, to legs, to core – I never felt bored. Then we switched to cardio. How does one do cardio on a Pilates reformer? In the most fun and entertaining way possible! We attached springboards to our reformers and jumped, while lying down – kicking our legs out to the sides, then up and down. SO MUCH FUN! I looked at the clock after 10 minutes of class and realized I didn’t look at it again until it was time to go.

Still, I may be a Private Pilates kinda gal, but one thing I loved about my group class was the camaraderie; I struggled, it was a tough class, but I had women struggling right along with me. I felt comforted the minute a classmate grunted out “This really hurts.” Oh great! It wasn’t just me!

This is absolutely a class that you feel during and after, but I’ll be back – Not just because my boss is making me – but also because it’s a ton of fun.

Follow my progress the next four weeks as I continue to try out Ballet Austin Pilates apparatus classes!

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